What a Joke: These Stories Never Actually Happened! – a sermon for the First Sunday in Lent – Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7, Matthew 4:1-11

Eve & AdamI am indebted to the exegetical work of John Holbert for the insights into Hebrew humour!

Each year as Lent approaches, I find myself flirting with the idea of giving up Lent for Lent. Lent is just too much work. For centuries, during Lent the church has emphasized so many concepts that seem alien to the 21st century mind. Each year during Lent preachers are required to undertake the unenviable task of unpacking unpopular, seemingly antiquated concepts in an effort to encourage the contemporary churchgoer to entertain the equally antiquated rituals of Lent. I mean Christmas and Easter might attract a few more people to our sanctuary, but how do you attract people with talk about repentance or fasting? Just look at our readings for this morning. Temptation is the order for toady. Eve and Adam succumbing to temptation, the Apostle Paul prattling on, heaping condemnation upon the first parents for having given in to temptation, and then Jesus himself resisting temptation from non-other than the Devil. Not exactly cheery stuff designed to bring comfort on a cold damp winter morning, where apart from the time change, there are very few signs of a longed for spring.

But Lent has arrived and so we must tuck into this dish of temptation hoping that it will reveal some hint of the promise of what lays beyond our long Lenten journey as we travel toward Easter’s resurrection joy. But these are not easy readings to unpack.

I could begin by warning against taking these texts literally. But you have heard warnings against taking the text literally and I know that you understand that the story about Eve and Adam is just a story. It never really happened. Most of you, even though you might be tempted to think that Jesus literally went out into the wilderness and was tempted by the Devil, most of you have long since realized that the Devil doesn’t actually exist. If you’re still tempted to believe that this story actually happened, well, the fact that in the story itself, Jesus goes out into the desert all by himself ought to at least make you pause to ask, who wrote this story down, if there was nobody there but Jesus and the Devil?

These stories are just that, they are stories. In the words of Marcus Borg, “The events in these stories never actually happened. But the events in these stories are always happening.” Let me say that again, lest there be any doubt: They never actually happened, but they are always happening. That’s what makes these stories such great stories. The stuff in these stories is always happening over and over again. Temptation is the stuff of our lives. Each and every one of us, each and every day struggles with temptation, each and every one of us and all of us together as humanity. This grand human experiment that we are caught up in requires that we all struggle with temptation. Continue reading

Practicing Resurrection: Sophia/Wisdom – a sermon for Mothers’ Day

Christ Sophia pastorDawnThe sermon hymn: “When Masks of God Both Age and Die” can be found here

Listen to the Mothers’ Day sermon here

El Shaddai, Eloheim, Rauach, Chokma, Rechem, YAHWEH, these are the ancient biblical Hebrew names for the reality that we call God. El Shaddai which translates as “she – breasted one, ”Eloheim which is the feminine plural for “majesty,”  Rauach a feminine word for “wind” “breath” “spirit,” Chokma, a feminine word for “wisdom.” Rechem  also a feminine word which translates as “ womb love” mother love, compassion. YAHWEH – I AM, WHO AM or I shall be who I shall be Ancient biblical Hebrew names for the reality that we call God.

During the time of Jesus there was another name for God that was used by the Jewish people:  El Shekinah which translates as “she who dwells among us.” There were other  words for the reality that we call God which the writers of the New Testament would have been so familiar with; Greek words like: Theos — a feminine noun which translates simply as “God,” Sophia – which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Rauach for “Wisdom,” Pnumena – the feminine noun which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Chokma which means: wind, breath or spirit.   That these names for the reality that we call God are all feminine nouns is remarkable when you look at how these words were translated by the Roman Empire into Latin: Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Stripped of her breasts and her womb-love, the One we call God, the Chokma who Dwells among us, is given the aura of a powerful young Roman God as the word for breasts is translated as “Almighty” and whose Rechem – womb-love is reserved for those who fear HIM.

Yet despite the Empire’s attempt to penetrate the sacred feminine with masculinity’s youthful vigor, (yes, I did mean that pun) this reality we call God will age over the centuries to become a bearded old grandfather-like figure who lives up there somewhere, and woe to those who dare to expose His transgendered history; for God is male and that’s that. The image of the great I AM erected by the male hierarchy to be worshipped and glorified, forever and ever, as Father, Son, and yes, even the nebulous Holy Spirit becomes HE in order to penetrate His Bride the church.  No room for talk of breasts or womb as SHE who dwells among us, Chokma, Sophia, Wisdom is banished to the mists of time. That is until women began to be admitted to the sacred halls of the academy; until women began in significant numbers to study the ancient texts and unravel the ancient languages and begin to question the work of their male predecessors and contemporaries. Female academics, female theologians, and female translators’ questions lead to the discover of the long hidden, often denied, and ever present breasts and womb which now that they have been exposed will never again be cast out from their dwelling place among us. Wisdom, Sophia has been emancipated she is woman hear her roar. Continue reading

Practicing Resurrection: Sophia/Wisdom – a sermon for Mothers’ Day

Christ Sophia pastorDawnThe sermon hymn: “When Masks of God Both Age and Die” can be found here

Listen to the Mothers’ Day sermon here

What a Joke: These Stories Never Actually Happened! – a sermon for the First Sunday in Lent – Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7, Matthew 4:1-11

Eve & AdamI am indebted to the exegetical work of John Holbert for the insights into Hebrew humour!

Each year as Lent approaches, I find myself flirting with the idea of giving up Lent for Lent. Lent is just too much work. For centuries, during Lent the church has emphasized so many concepts that seem alien to the 21st century mind. Each year during Lent preachers are required to undertake the unenviable task of unpacking unpopular, seemingly antiquated concepts in an effort to encourage the contemporary churchgoer to entertain the equally antiquated rituals of Lent. I mean Christmas and Easter might attract a few more people to our sanctuary, but how do you attract people with talk about repentance or fasting? Just look at our readings for this morning. Temptation is the order for toady. Eve and Adam succumbing to temptation, the Apostle Paul prattling on, heaping condemnation upon the first parents for having given in to temptation, and then Jesus himself resisting temptation from non-other than the Devil. Not exactly cheery stuff designed to bring comfort on a cold damp winter morning, where apart from the time change, there are very few signs of a longed for spring.

But Lent has arrived and so we must tuck into this dish of temptation hoping that it will reveal some hint of the promise of what lays beyond our long Lenten journey as we travel toward Easter’s resurrection joy. But these are not easy readings to unpack.

I could begin by warning against taking these texts literally. But you have heard warnings against taking the text literally and I know that you understand that the story about Eve and Adam is just a story. It never really happened. Most of you, even though you might be tempted to think that Jesus literally went out into the wilderness and was tempted by the Devil, most of you have long since realized that the Devil doesn’t actually exist. If you’re still tempted to believe that this story actually happened, well, the fact that in the story itself, Jesus goes out into the desert all by himself ought to at least make you pause to ask, who wrote this story down, if there was nobody there but Jesus and the Devil?

These stories are just that, they are stories. In the words of Marcus Borg, “The events in these stories never actually happened. But the events in these stories are always happening.” Let me say that again, lest there be any doubt: They never actually happened, but they are always happening. That’s what makes these stories such great stories. The stuff in these stories is always happening over and over again. Temptation is the stuff of our lives. Each and every one of us, each and every day struggles with temptation, each and every one of us and all of us together as humanity. This grand human experiment that we are caught up in requires that we all struggle with temptation. Continue reading

Another Option for Preaching on Mothers’ Day – Bring Many Names

Until we can fully recover images and names for God that include the feminine, it will continue to be difficult for many to see the face of God in women and girls. Mothers’ Day is an opportunity for preachers to uncover, explore and proclaim the feminine names, attributes, images and activities of the Divine. This Sunday we will begin our liturgy by singing “Bring Many Names” (Voices United Hymnal), we will sing an invocation to Sophia “Come, Sophia” (Miriam Therese Winter), “Sing Lo! Sing, O Sophia” (Miriam Therese Winter), acclaim women of faith in song with “Come Celebrate the Women” (Shirley Erna Murray), praise the Breasted One with our Hymn of the Day, “Womb of Life” (Ruth Duck), after communion we will “Rock-a My soul in the Bosom of She Who Is” (Miriam Theresa Winter) and send folks off rejoicing to “Faith of Our Mothers”. (copyright laws prevent me from posting the music, so message me and I’ll hook you up)

I offer this repost to inspire the bold women and lovers of women to proclaim the love of She Who Dwells Among Us this Mothers’ Day!

GOD’s Radical Mastectomy

divine feminine 3Recently, I found myself in conversation with a young woman who insisted that inclusive language for God is nothing more than political correctness that has been imposed upon the church by feminists. She insisted that because women have now achieved equality with men, the need for inclusive language for God has served its purpose and need no longer be of concern to worship leaders. I am grateful that my age afforded me the maturity not to explode on this young woman who can well afford her opinion as a direct result of some of the language battles that I and my contemporaries struggled to overcome while she was but knee high to a grasshopper. Our conversation has stuck with me and caused me to review some things that I wrote long ago about the impact our language has not only on our images of the Divine but on the way we live together in community. What follows is a portion of a piece I wrote about the disappearance of the Breasted One as a name for God.

“We believe in one God, the Father the Almighty… We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father…  We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.  With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.  He has spoken through the prophets. In this God:  “We believe” and “His kingdom will have no end!”  God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our blessed Trinity.  As we proclaim our faith in the words of the Nicene, Apostles’, or (heaven forbid) the Athanasian creeds we proclaim a particular image of the Triune God.  For generations,  a majority of Christians have assumed all three persons in this Trinity are male.  Until recently this assumption has resulted in the exclusive use of male images, symbols and pronouns to represent the Triune God which Christians worship.  God has been declared to be male.  This is not an easy declaration to make.  In order to make such a declaration, many of God’s attributes which are revealed in the biblical accounts have been eradicated from the Christian tradition. 

     Long before the Christian church began to formulate its exclusively male image of the triune God, the Hebrew people used several words to refer to God.  The earliest of these words is “El” which is the generic Semitic word for a god.   

to read the more click here

How Did She Who Has Breasts Become God Almighty?

GOD’s Radical Mastectomy

divine feminine 3Recently, I found myself in conversation with a young woman who insisted that inclusive language for God is nothing more than political correctness that has been imposed upon the church by feminists. She insisted that because women have now achieved equality with men, the need for inclusive language for God has served its purpose and need no longer be of concern to worship leaders. I am grateful that my age afforded me the maturity not to explode on this young woman who can well afford her opinion as a direct result of some of the language battles that I and my contemporaries struggled to overcome while she was but knee high to a grasshopper. Our conversation has stuck with me and caused me to review some things that I wrote long ago about the impact our language has not only on our images of the Divine but on the way we live together in community. What follows is a portion of a piece I wrote about the disappearance of the Breasted One as a name for God.

“We believe in one God, the Father the Almighty… We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father…  We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.  With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.  He has spoken through the prophets.[1]  In this God:  “We believe” and “His kingdom will have no end!”  God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our blessed Trinity.  As we proclaim our faith in the words of the Nicene, Apostles’, or (heaven forbid) the Athanasian creeds we proclaim a particular image of the Triune God.  For generations,  a majority of Christians have assumed all three persons in this Trinity are male.  Until recently this assumption has resulted in the exclusive use of male images, symbols and pronouns to represent the Triune God which Christians worship.  God has been declared to be male.  This is not an easy declaration to make.  In order to make such a declaration, many of God’s attributes which are revealed in the biblical accounts have been eradicated from the Christian tradition. 

     Long before the Christian church began to formulate its exclusively male image of the triune God, the Hebrew people used several words to refer to God.  The earliest of these words is “El” which is the generic Semitic word for a god.   

to read the more click here